Maui Itinerary - Day 3

Maui Itinerary - Day 3
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Your third day on beautiful Maui, let's make it special.

• General: DIY / How-To • General: Educational

Guide Series: Maui Vacation Itinerary
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Many people find that Day 3 is when they really start settling in and getting into their Maui groove. Your body is (hopefully) fully adjusted to Hawaii Time now. Maybe you're even getting into the slower pace of life that we call Island Time (see Hawaii Living: Island Time). There's still so much you want to do and see but taking it slow is the only way to go here.

So how can you best take it slow and see it all on Day 3? Simple, drive the road to Hana. How can I suggest you do just one thing for this entire day? Simple, the drive to Hana is one big thing to do with lots of little things to do sprinkled in along the way. And it can easily take all day, and then some. It's such a mega-activity that we also have a separate guide just on the Road To Hana that you should read.

First, a little backstory. The actual road to Hana is called the Hana Highway and it includes both Route 36 and Route 360 on maps. It runs along the north shore and to the far east side where the town of Hana is. Once the road curves around to the south side of the island it becomes the Piilani Highway (Route 31) as it continues west (along the southern coast) and then north to complete the circle. Only the northern bits are technically the "road to Hana".

This tends to be confusing as the road that runs north/south from Kihei to Wailea is also called the Piilani Highway (Route 31) but the Kihei/Wailea Piilani Highway doesn't connect to the Hana Piilani Highway at all. So, if you are circling the island clockwise along the north coast road to Hana you can come back via a full circle on the southern route but it's a far longer and bumpier ride than the northern route.

Because of that, most people drive to Hana and then come back the same way along the northern Hana Highway route. The road on the southern Piilani route can be so bad in parts that you may damage your rental car and void your insurance, including what you bought through the rental company since many rental companies ban you from driving the southern route. The bigger issue is that the southern route has far less traffic and potentially non-existent cell service in far more areas so if you have car trouble you may be on your own.

To drive the northern route takes around 2 hours without traffic and without stops. It's only 50-60 miles but it's slow with plenty of one lane bridges and over 600 curves. But keep that time in mind so that you can (ideally) plan your return trip before it gets dark. Because dark out here is far darker than you're used to.

Along the way you'll see roadside waterfalls, amazing ocean view lookouts, and generally all sorts of Maui beauty. What you won't find are a lot of services along the way. So make sure your vehicle is fueled up before you head out and going early is your best bet. Bring water and snacks in the car as well.

When you reach Pua'a Ka'a State Wayside Park, be sure to stop even if just for a bathroom break because there aren't many opportunities for that until you reach Hana. This is also an area where you can find a waterfall or hike around a bit if you want. My advice is to not spend a ton of time there but instead drive a bit further to Nahiku Cove. It's an amazing, secluded place to watch the beauty (and power) of the ocean (but not a place to swim).

Once you make your way further east, you'll run into Wai'anapanapa State Park which is not to be missed! You can walk some nature trails, check out a cave, watch blowholes do their thing, but the magic here is Wai'anapanapa Black Sand Beach. The colors of the black sand, blue ocean, and green plant life are mindblowing.

Now, you didn't try to collect any Lava Rock & Sand Souvenirs did you? Pele frowns on that sort of thing. Moving along you'll finally hit the famous town of Hana. It's not very big but take some time to explore the place.

Stop in and take a look at the only real hotel here, the Travaasa Hotel Hana. There are a few food options in town as well so go eat with the locals before moving on. Get your food to go and head over to Hana Bay / Hana Beach Park to have a little oceanside picnic. If you're low on gas, the Chevron Hana is your only chance to tank up.

Continuing on clockwise (heading south and then west along the east/southern coast) you'll want to stop at Seven Sacred Pools / Ohe'o Gulch. The pools are amazing to see and only require a 1/4 mile or so hike to get to. Okay, so there aren't seven pools but that name sounds better so it stuck.

The pools are all freshwater and people swim in them but just keep in mind that any freshwater pools and streams in Hawaii can contain Leptospirosis so swim at your own risk. A Flash Flood is also no joke so make sure you know what you're doing here and have a chat with the park ranger where you parked before heading down to keep things safe.

Not feeling the whole swimming thing? You can also enjoy a wonderful hike through the bamboo forest here. The point is, it's a must visit place if you've made it this far. This is nature at its finest.

If you want to continue further on your route you'll also be able to see Charles Lindbergh's Grave which is located at the Palapala Ho'omau Congregational Church. This is a graveyard so be respectful. By this point, you've seen enough of Maui's beauty to understand why Lindbergh (after being diagnosed with cancer) said "I would rather spend one day on Maui than 30 days in the hospital." I couldn't agree more.

This is now where you need to make a decision. Continuing clockwise (to the west) starts the beginning of some potentially terrible roads that may get you in trouble if things go bad. Turning back and heading east (counter-clockwise) is the only route I suggest. Either way, it's certain to be an adventure that you'll remember for years to come.

You've had a long day so why not head back to your hotel and grab some dinner along the way. Then soak the day away in your hotel's hot tub and enjoy a good night's rest.